Friday, June 28, 2013

Another Child Dies in a Hot Car

Sadly, it happens every year. Every. Single. Year. Children are left in hot cars and they die of hyperthermia, heat stroke (Watch That Summer Heat). Last year, I wrote about the senseless deaths by drowning (Drowning Isn't Noisy). It looks like heat stroke is this year's topic.

This week, a 2-year-old boy died after being left for a "significant number of hours" in a hot car. I don't know the whole story. I don't know who forgot or how that happened, but it has happened before and it has happened too many times. Sometimes, the children are deliberately left in the car ("I'll be back in a few minutes," which turns into much longer), sometimes the children get into the car without anyone knowing, but often, the deaths occur when the child is forgotten. How does that happen?

The theories I've heard is that people are distracted, they're thrown off their routine, they're forgetful, they're busy. But are we really that distracted, that routine-oriented, that forgetful, that busy that we forget that we have a child in the back seat? How can that happen?

I heard on the radio today a host asking for ideas on how this can be prevented. One woman called in and said there should be an alarm that buzzes if someone gets out of the front of the car, but not the back. I guess she figured it could be a weight-triggered alarm like the ones in the front seat that tell you that you've not put on your seatbelt yet. But do we really have to start adding more technology to our lives? And what if we depend on it and the alarm doesn't sound? Then is the child's death the manufacturer's fault for not reminding the parents?

A friend of mine had five children. She laughs when she tells the story of the time when her husband took the a few of the children out for a bike ride - and forgot the baby in his crib. She said, "oh, he was busy, he didn't think about it." I didn't think it was funny. I was horrified. If you're the parent-in-charge, how do you forget a child? I'm not talking about having two adults around and each thinks the other has a child - this is one parent who was responsible for the child.

We have so much going on in our lives, but we need to take responsibility for things too. My children outnumbered us, there were three of them and only two of us. And we were as busy as most people with similar lives. And I was a far from perfect mother and I know I'll be a far from perfect grandmother when the time comes. But I wonder, in what circumstances could I have forgotten a child in the car. And if I did, would I not notice it quickly? "Hey, where's _____?"

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

While you would think that there's no way anyone could forget a child (or a pet) in their vehicle...people DO get distracted. The only way around it that I can see is to establish set routines and stick to them religiously.

Count noses before leaving the house, the restaurant, the playground, the church. Count noses every time the family gets in the car, to make sure all are present.

I knew a man once whose sister left her baby in the car. She had come home from grocery shopping, took the groceries inside first. The phone was ringing, and she answered it. It wsa 30 minutes or longer before she realized she hadn't heard the baby, and it was too late. So make the routine that you take the baby in BEFORE the groceries.

But no matter what routines you set, no matter how zealously you follow them, accidents will happen, and hearts will break.

--Mary in GA

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

You're right Mary. Sadly, accidents do happen. And the results can be so heart breaking. I can't imagine how it feels to lose a child, and then add to it that it was an avoidable accident? How do you bear that?

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Marij. Add to that the scorn and abuse that is heaped on the parent who forgot his/her child in the car, as if he/she did not have enough self-induced guilt...

When I was young, we were a mile down the road on our way home before Mom/Dad realized one of us was missing. My sister had gone to the bathroom at the tavern just as we were heading to the car. In *that* instance, alcohol was involved, but in a lot of the current stories, it's not.

One day last summer, my dogs went out separately instead of together. One went out as the other came in, and I got distracted. They both lie quietly on the floor in my home-office as I work. It was an hour before I realized that there were not 2 dogs on the floor behind me (one rotates between the office and the livingroom, and I thought she was in the other room). She had been outside for an hour, and it was one of those near-100-degree days. She was fine (greyhounds are so adaptable), but I was a wreck.

-Mary in GA

Christine Peets said...

Sadly, while this may have been the first story like this for this summer, it will not be the last.

Technology either in a car, on a phone, or some other device could help, but as you said, Marijke, "what if it fails?"

We weren't the perfect parents either, and if we are to be grandparents, mistakes will be made there too, but I cannot imagine what would take my attention away from a child.

But then I'm sure that the caregiver responsible for the child who died couldn't have imagined this either.